email writing styles

4 Styles of Email Content: What to Use (and When)

Nicholas Graziade

Around the turn of the 20th century, French writer Georges Polti compiled a fascinating list literary examples. This list spanned much of Europe’s dramatic history, ranging from the classical Greeks to many of his modern contemporaries.

He called his list “The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations,” and in it he hoped to reduce every example to its most basic plot. In fact, as his title suggests, he found that were really only 36 different major plots! Everything else was simply a variation on a theme.

I immediately thought of Polti’s list when a colleague asked about different writing styles that shape the content of our mailings. Although our word choices, sentences, and mood make each of our mailings unique, there are some styles that are on the top of everyone’s list.

Let’s take a look at four of the key styles that you can use in your mailings.

The Expository Style

When writing most news stories or studies, the expository style is clearly your go-to method. You’ll present the facts and define their importance. A great example of an expository story is a “Yearly Membership Report” article. These can be rife with metrics, statistics, and other data that detail the exact way that the year unfolded.

You’ll often find that this writing style uses unique strategies to highlight the importance of one data set (such as comparisons) or to show how one event lead to another (cause and effect). Most scholarly writing is expository and deliberately obscures the participants so that readers completely focus on the information at hand.

The Narrative Style

The narrative style is on the opposite side of the stylistic spectrum, and it’s one that we can all recognize rather quickly – it tells a story! Whether it’s an inspiring tale of how a colleague overcame adversity, or simply a first-person account of the success of a conference, narratives pull us in with their detail and personal touch.

Think of narratives like popular books or movies. You become entwined in the character’s experience and want to know more. You can use narratives to stir emotions, to encourage your readers, and even keep them on the edge of their seats as they reach the peak of your story.

The Descriptive Style

Do you need your words to conjure a vivid, unmistakable picture? If so, the descriptive style may be right for you. There is a famous axiom in writing school, “Show, don’t tell.” Descriptions do just that.

You can use the descriptive style to reveal subtle, metaphorical, or nuanced meanings. This is especially true for abstract concepts. For example, if I wanted to show a reader that my writing desk helps to remove me from the worries of my day, I might describe my writing desk with words and images that suggest distant tropical islands or lush desert oases.

Description ultimately lets you flex your creative muscles in evocative ways!

The Persuasive Style

Persuasion is an art unto itself, and the persuasive style uses elements of all the above styles to convince readers to accept a particular point-of-view.

Traditional persuasion has three key elements: logic, credibility, and passion. Believe it or not, these elements are often equals in their persuasive power. For example, imagine that you’ve been hiking through the forest and came across a well-preserved arrowhead. While you can probably make a sound logical argument about how this ancient tool found its way to the trail, people will probably accept the explanation of an experienced archaeologist over yours.

One Last Thing

Regardless of your stylistic approach, there is one thing that you always need to keep in mind: make sure that your content is clear! Behind each style is intention, so the clearer you are, the better you’ll communicate your ideas effectively and directly.

Looking for more tips on writing great marketing copy? Check out my recent posts on how to use semicolons, who vs. whomand 5 word choices that sabotage your marketing copy.

About the Author
Nicholas Graziade

As the Documentation Architect at Informz, Nick is a technical writer, copyeditor, and grammar guru all rolled into one! When not keeping tabs on the Informz KnowledgeBase, he enjoys writing poetry, mastering the bass guitar, and reading works by famous philosophers.